ESTEVAN - Young people learned about wildlife and the outdoors during the Estevan Wildlife Federation’s annual Conservation Camp from Thursday to Sunday.
Forty-three young people gathered at the federation’s grounds near Boundary Dam for four days of activities. It was the first time the EWF has been able to have the camp since 2019 due to the pandemic.
“We ended up filling up the camp and having a waiting list,” said Jarrett Daoust, who was one of the camp’s organizers. “The kids really enjoyed it. We had a lot of fresh kids versus the past. We’re used to having a lot of returning kids.”
The camp is for children ages 10-15, so there were a lot of kids who attended the last camp in 2019 who aren’t eligible to return this year.
Activities started with lessons on fisheries, orienteering/GPS, kayaking, swimming, and calling and blood trailing Thursday afternoon. Classes that evening taught such skills as outdoor cooking, fire starting and spear fishing, and the children also participated in a turkey shoot, spider web and night eyes.
Friday’s sessions focused on fishing, canoeing, antler measuring and axe throwing in the morning, and then digital photography, hiking, rock wall climbing, trapping and fish filleting in the afternoon and evening. They also learned about aquatic invasive species.
Saturday’s focus was shooting, which is always a popular feature of the camp. After learning the rules, the campers used a rifle, a .22, a muzzleloader, a paintball gun and a bow and arrow, and they learned about trap shooting.
“We always say that’s the favourite day,” said Daoust. “The kids get the different opportunities to shoot many different calibres with the many different range officers. Not many times do people get to shoot all of the different calibres, especially at this young age, so it’s very unique for our camp."
The camp closed on Sunday with presentations and a lunch with the parents.
“This teaches kids outdoor and wildlife survival skills,” said Daoust. “I know there’s not many that go on nowadays, and it seems to be more of a rarity in which people do the basics of how to start a campfire, how to set up a tent, even sleeping in tents. It’s kind of gotten away from us, but it gets us back to the roots of thinking more common sense, and how the outdoors and conservation efforts affect our lives every day.”
Meals were served to campers and they slept in tents. Since there were a couple of cooler evenings during the camp, the youths had a greater experience of the true outdoors.
Campers were divided into six groups and each had a counsellor. Many more people volunteered during the weekend to teach the kids skills.
“We have anywhere from 50-60 volunteers who help organize, plan, run activities, making donation, stuff like that. It’s really the volunteers who help us put it all together.”
Daoust was impressed with the response to the camp this year. It was nice to have all of the spots filled and to have a waitlist.
“We recognize a lot of those 10-15-year-old campers that age out, they come back to be counsellors, volunteers, instructors, range officers and even planners and organizers. It’s nice to see the loyalty and the interest and passion in what we do.”